Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | March 5, 2009

Sermon on John 19:16-17

What Grace is this!  It stoops to lift a cross of wood!

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

John 19:16-17: Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.  So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

There’s an interesting phenomena to be observed among people when it comes to doing things:  We don’t want to.  We don’t want to get assigned the task at the meeting, so, when the chairman talks about it in a way that makes it clear he’s looking to delegate the task to someone, magically, all eyes are glued to the table and every vocal cord is suddenly stilled.  Does that sound like one of our church meetings?  We don’t want to do a particular chore at home, so when Mom or Dad, husband or wife, says, “Boy, this sure could use a good vacuuming,” suddenly we’re intensely interested in the blank television screen, or the ad for Arby’s curly-fries that’s on the top of the garbage can.  Not only that, but routine, daily activities, things that happen every day, every week, every month, like clock-work, without change, seem too easily and quickly to slip out of our minds.  The trash goes out on Thursday mornings, yet somehow it’s never gathered on Wednesday night.

There’s a variety of reasons for such behavior.  Sometimes things honestly slip our minds.  Everybody gets a mulligan.  But it’s not always forgetfulness.  It’s laziness.  It’s apathy.  It’s selfishness.  It’s disrespect for other people.  Sometimes it’s a mental game of chicken – waiting for someone else to say or do something so we don’t have to.  Sometimes it’s fear of failure or accountability.  Sometimes it’s unwillingness to use the gifts God has given me.  Sometimes it’s the idea that my time is my time and nobody should ever intrude on it.  Sometimes it’s a selfish desire to not have to do things ourselves when someone else could do them.  Sometimes it’s the arrogant thought that some work is beneath you.  But all the time, when it’s not forgetfulness, it’s sinful.  You tell me how being so wrapped up in yourself that you aren’t willing to stoop down and do some work, to take up a chore, to be on a committee, to help around the house, to help around church, isn’t sinful.  You tell me how that’s loving your neighbor.  Is that what you want others to do to you?

And all of this is just one more proof of the dreadful condition sin leaves us in.  Sin drives me to refuse accountability.  “The woman you gave me, Lord…The Serpent, Lord….”  “It’s not my job, Lord.”  “It’s not my turn, Lord.”  “I don’t have time, Lord.”  “This is beneath me, Lord.”  Your sin leaves many things unpicked up.  And God’s rightful response, “Fine.  Then burn in hell.”

Imagine if Jesus had your attitude.  Imagine if, in the eternal councils of God, when the Father said, “I’ve got good news and bad news.  The good news is that we’re going to create a perfect world with perfect people created in Our own image.  The bad news is that they’re going to screw it up.  They’re going to despise the world we create for them and reject us because they think they’re so smart.  And even though I’m going to tell Adam that if he does something like that, he’ll die, he’s going to do it anyways.  So, we’re going to need someone to save them, because they can’t save themselves.  We’re going to need someone to pick up the mess these humans are going to make.  Who’s it going to be?”  And Jesus says nothing.  Jesus looks off into space, waiting for that awkward moment to pass and the next item on the agenda to be handled.

Imagine if Jesus had your attitude.  Imagine if, when the Father detailed the plan He had for saving mankind, the time it would take, the need for Jesus to not just snap His fingers and change stuff, but to take on human flesh, be born of a woman, grow up like a human, eat, drink, sleep, and cry like a human, imagine if Jesus said, “Yeah, you know, I just don’t think I’ve got the time.  Can you get someone else?”

Imagine if Jesus had your attitude.  Imagine if, when things got a little rocky – the disciples were being bull-headed, the crowds of sick and dying didn’t get any smaller, the Pharisees were asking especially obnoxious and blasphemous questions, and still there were all those sinners and tax collectors hanging around wanting to hear every word, imagine if Jesus said, “Just leave me alone.  Let me live MY life!”

Imagine if Jesus had your attitude.  Imagine if, when the end was near – Judas betrays Him, the disciples abandon Him, His supporters in the Sanhedrin are silent, the High Priest jerry rigs a conviction, Pilate washes His hands, the soldiers beat Him and call Him names, and then, after all that, they say, “Grab that piece of wood we’re going to crucify you on and carry it out to the spot,” imagine if Jesus said, “Are you talking to me?  Don’t you know who I am?  I brought you into this world and I can take you out of this world.  I don’t have to do nothing I don’t want to do.  And I’m certainly not going one step further.  I’m not picking up that cross.  You pick up that cross and crucify yourself.  This is beneath me.”

Imagine if Jesus just decided He didn’t want to do any of it.  At all.  Ever.  Imagine if Jesus were like you.  Imagine if Jesus just said, “You know what, Father, I could care less about these guys!  They screwed up!  They ate the fruit!  They disobeyed you!  They should die!  What does it concern us?  Why should we care if they want to sit in hell with Satan?  Let ’em burn if they’re so dumb, lazy, and selfish!”

Imagine that, and then see the God you actually have.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull. Your God’s love for you is so unbelievably large as to stoop down and lift up a cross of wood, the very wood on which your God’s hands and feet were nailed, the wood on which He bled and died, the wood on which He bore your selfish, lazy, arrogance.  The God you actually have is the God who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Jesus acted exactly opposite of us.  He volunteered before the chairman could ask.  He had the job done before the Father could even mention it.  Unforced.  Unasked.  Unearned.  He did it.  He stooped down in every conceivable way to lift you up.  He bore the cross you couldn’t.  He bore it cheerfully, that, as we sang earlier, He His foes from death might free. Imagine that.  But you don’t have to imagine it.  It’s real.  He stooped to lift that cross of wood.  He went to Golgotha.  He lay in the tomb.  And on the third day, the third day, your life began all over again because so did His.  May God be praised through Jesus Christ! Amen.

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